Today, Venmo is THE mobile payment app in the USA. My friends and I use it all the time; splitting checks is a cakewalk. And because of its ubiquity, Venmo is contracted by large companies to process refunds and other transfers of money to or from smartphones. (This is where Venmo takes a cut and makes serious dough.)
So naturally, the nation’s largest banks have been rankled at being locked out of the mobile payment market, to the point where they’ve decided to band together to give Venmo some competition. Band together!? Yep. That’s because the biggest challenge with P2P money transfers is that all parties need the app for it to be useful. And it was just announced that these unlikely bedfellows chose the name Zelle.
Like cash, financial entities’ names trend colder and harder, but Zelle is a sharp zag from that. Zelle is a friendly app name that suggests speed – not only do fricatives at the beginning of words make us feel speed as we say them, Zelle suggests gazelle, the nimble antelope and money management guru of the animal kingdom. And with the “elle” part of the name, Zelle is about as feminine as you can get – another point of differentiation in an industry rife with Charleses, Franklins, Benjamins, Morgans, and Stanleys.
The need for a total financial industry naming convention shake-up is obvious. Big banks have not been in the public’s good graces since we took a bath in 2007, and the union of all major banks, even just to make an app, is potentially scary. They needed an app name that did not sound scary. They needed a totally fresh name, devoid of to the banks themselves or to the traditional financial services industry.
There are banking institutions that are making similarly friendly, quirky, feminine names work, more or less. Voya Financial is one example. But sticking Financial on the end tempers the name, links it to the industry, and Voya has a bit more permanence to it. I like that the name is feminine – my quibble is that I actually think Zelle sounds a bit too fast. Zelle is so light and quick it feels ephemeral, and if there is one thing I do not want my bank account to be, it is here one day and gone the next. And that’s not to mention that if you don’t get to “gazelle,” you can easily see “sell” in the name, which is a distracting and less than ideal association.
The name checks a lot of the boxes – short, memorable, evocative, graphically interesting… It’s a decent name for an app. But it has two pretty noteworthy flaws. So I gotta say, sell.
Contentious closing claim: if they took one more letter from gazelle and called the app Azelle, I don’t think being too ephemeral would have been a problem at all (another syllable adds a lot of permanence), and nobody would have seen “sell” in the name either. In my opinion, that would have been a much better name.
Today, Venmo is THE mobile payment app in the USA. My friends and I use it all the time; splitting checks is a cakewalk. And because of its ubiquity, Venmo is contracted by large companies to process refunds and other transfers of money to or from smartphones. (This is where Venmo takes a cut and makes serious dough.)…